Out & about: spring flowers

‘When you’re walking the view shifts and changes.
Walking’s a form of hope.’

from ‘The World Without Us
by Mireille Juchau

 

I’ve just spent a week down at our house at Aldinga Beach on holiday.

Common (variegated) groundsel

I had planned to go running as much as I could, but due to illness, in the end I had to opt for a gentler form of movement.

Vanilla lily

And that turned out to be not such a bad thing.

Red parrot pea

The sun was gentle and soft most days, though the wind felt distinctly chilly. In the Scrub, native flowers were blossoming everywhere, in every colour: yellow, purple, orange, white, pink, blue.

Rice flowers

Paper flowers

Blue Grass Lily (Caesia calliantha)

Even the parts of plants that weren’t flowering seemed exotic and gorgeously coloured.

Twining vines (devil’s twine)

Crimson branches

Bees darted about, drinking nectar.

Bee on a coast beard heath plant (or a rice flower?)
with curling shoot

And though they’re not pictured here, roos observed me as I walked the sandy trail, while whistlers burbled hidden in the trees and a frogmouth boomed in the distance.

Yellow bush peas
(that’s what I call them, but apparently they’re called common eutaxia)

Spring has truly arrived.

Out and about: dragons & damsels

‘When you’re walking the view shifts and changes.
Walking’s a form of hope.’

from ‘The World Without Us
by Mireille Juchau

 

I wasn’t expecting anything special on my most recent walk in the Scrub. It was mid-February, a warm Sunday at the end of a warm week, after a very warm January. I figured everything in the Scrub — bushes, birds, animals — would be going through what I always think of as mid-summer somnolence.

But things in the Scrub were thriving. Passing sea box bushes resplendent with red berries (above) and sheoak trees whose branches were clustered with woody fruit (below), I walked south, towards the little lagoon just behind the boundary fence that runs along Acacia Terrace.

Damselflies skimmed the (somewhat scummy) surface of the water, and a pair of ducks paddled amongst the reeds in the lagoon. As I followed the curve of the bank around to the other side of the pond, I saw a family of kangaroos lazing in the shade of the nearby bushes, one of them poised upright, ears pricked, standing sentry.

There was a bush in flower that I’d never seen before, too — I think it was a hakea, though I’m not entirely sure. Its white flowers reflected the bright summer sun so that the petals seemed to glow.

And just outside the Scrub, perched on an upright stump by the side of the road, a little dragon caught my eye.

He (or she, I’m not sure) was very still, so still that I thought at first he was an oddly shaped twig sticking out at the top of the stump. We regarded each other silently for quite some time — I, fascinated, he, less so — before I turned to go.

I swear I could feel that dragon’s eyes on me all the way home …

Tentacles

Other people’s words about … urbanisation

Here, town finished, and countryside began. You crossed over, from pavements and shops, towards copses and streams, and meadows full of grazing cows. The streets and the fields seemed to push at each other, the city trying to sprawl further out and the fields resisting. The planners and architects and merchants would obviously win. What force had buttercups and earthworms and cabbages against the need of human beings for dwelling places, against developers’ chances to make money? Alive as a strange creature in an aquarium, the city stretched out its tentacles, grew and swelled, gobbling the pastures and hedgerows that lay in its path. Fields were bought, and new rows of houses built, and then the process repeated.

from ‘The Walworth Beauty
by Michèle Roberts

When we moved to Aldinga Beach almost twenty years ago, it was still — just, almost — a country town. Ever since then, the city has been creeping up on it. Sometimes I think the encroaching suburbs are like an oil spill, seeping down the slopes of the hills from the north, all the way into the Scrub. And so, though the rural world we live in at Aldinga Beach is very different from the nineteenth-century English one Michèle Roberts describes in the passage above, still her words seem apposite.

But the Scrub is still alive and I still go wandering through it, and whenever I’m wandering there, I feel hope. I took the pictures in today’s post one morning last week, in late July. Though the sky was grey and the temperature was chilly, the first breath of spring had wafted over the Scrub, as I hope you’ll see below.

In flower that morning were flame heath bushes …

… and …

… grass trees.

I saw the first shy showing …

… of guinea flowers:

There were green shoots everywhere …

… after the recent rains.

And there were other plants budding, too. Like this:

And this:

And this:

In the southwest corner of the Scrub, where the land slopes down towards the coast, the kangaroos were snoozing …

… although they weren’t best pleased when I disturbed them:

Further on, I caught a flash of gold from the corner of my eye. It was a golden whistler darting about the branches of a tree beside the sandy path.

Whistlers don’t sing at this time of the year, but their plumage is as glorious as ever (though unfortunately faintly blurred in my photos):

So, yes, the tentacles of the city are reaching out here in South Australia.

But still, the last remnants of the pre-urbanised world like Aldinga Scrub live on.

The beast

Snatched phrases (on being present)

Do the anxiety. Then leave it there. This is our challenge.

from ‘First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Story about Anxiety
by Sarah Wilson

Simple words, huh? They apply to all manner of ills, I think — not just anxiety. They are about staying in the present: doing the hard stuff when it comes up, not questioning it or agonising over it … and then leaving it behind and moving on.

There are no solutions to anxiety out there, Wilson argues further on: no cures or fixes. So you just do it …

… and then you leave it.

This makes great sense to me.

Today’s photos? They’re from one of my latest wanders in the Scrub, a couple of weeks ago: mid-March. It was a still, grey afternoon, and when I first began to walk, the colours seemed drab, and the birdsong was muted, and the air felt unkind and cold.

But as I wandered on, I began to see a few flowers despite the greyness, and I came upon a kangaroo, which stiffened at my bumbling approach and then bounded away. I heard the sea murmur somewhere through and beyond the thicket of trees, and a magpie began to carol, low and soft.

I had done my day, and I had left it there, and things were fine. Just fine.

Differentiation

Other people’s words about … wild animals

As Paul and I were cresting the last hill, as I was squinting into the darkening woods to make out the path, a couple of deer lifted their heads at once and differentiated themselves from the trees.

We stared at them, and they at us, for a full thirty seconds without moving. They multiplied as we looked at them. There were three at first, then there were four, then there were five. They were the exact color of the bark and leaves –- gray brown –- but the skin around their eyes was red. I felt the breeze on their backs lift the braid from my chest and set it down over my shoulder.

‘They’re going to get us,’ Paul whispered. He reached for my hand.

‘They’re a herd,’ I reminded him. ‘They’re afraid of us.’

Two more appeared. Paul shivered.

From ‘History of Wolves
by Emily Fridlund

When I walk in the Scrub, particularly at certain times of the day, I am always conscious that I might encounter a roo or too. There are traces of them throughout the Scrub.

Sometimes a kangaroo appears before me in plain sight — in a clearing in a patch of sunlight, enjoying the last rays of the sun, joey in pouch.

But sometimes there are roos in front of me all the time, without my even realising it. I don’t know what alerts me to them then. It might be the faintest rustle in the leaves around me, or a slight movement — an ear-twitch, perhaps. Sometimes a sense comes over me, simply: a dawning awareness that I am not alone any more, that I am being watched, and regarded, and assessed.

Kangaroos are not naturally aggressive towards humans, as far as I know, or not during encounters like this. But still, like all wild animals, they are protective of each other and of their young. And so, when I come across a roo or two (or more) in this way — when they differentiate themselves from the bushes around them, as Linda, the narrator in the passage above, beautifully puts it — I make sure to stop and take one or two steps back. I let the kangaroos know I’m not a threat. We regard each other a while, creature to creature, acknowledging each other. It’s not fear I feel then, like Paul, the little boy in the quote above: it’s respect.

And then I move on, leaving them to their world, re-entering my own.

Inhabitant

Other people’s words about … noticing

Over the last year I have discovered a passion for birds and wildflowers in particular, along with the ever-present kangaroos. I love the texture of bark, the colour of leaves and mosses, I’m utterly fascinated with the fact that I can walk around our small patch of natural bushland each day and find something I’ve never noticed before. Or find something I have noticed before, but it catches my eye for a different reason.

from ‘Fifteen Acres: A Small Slice of Paradise‘ blog
by Lisa from Central Victoria, Australia

I came across Lisa’s blog only recently and instantly realised she is a kindred blogger. Her blog documents her growing understanding of, knowledge about, and love for all the species of native flora and fauna that live on her block of land in rural Central Victoria. I get the feeling that Lisa has learned about her patch of land in the same way I’ve learned about Aldinga Scrub — by walking through it day after day and simply observing.

Like Lisa, I didn’t expect to become fascinated by the plants and creatures living on my doorstep. It just happened. I didn’t even know about Aldinga Scrub until after we moved to Aldinga Beach: it was the beach — with its beautiful cliffs, its blue waters, its fish-inhabited and bird-dotted reef, its wide sands — which initially attracted me.

The first time I walked through the Scrub, I was just curious. I had heard that it was the last remnant of original coastal bushland in South Australia, and so I wanted to see what it was like. A year later, going through another phase of feeling inexplicably agitated and uncomfortable in my own skin, I decided to try walking through the Scrub more often. I thought that, if I made the effort to look outwards at the world around me instead of looking inwards into my own seething internal landscape, I might find solace.

And I did.

A small kind of miracle happened as I walked through the Scrub over and over. As I wandered, I began to wonder. As I wondered, I stopped. As I stopped, I observed. As I observed, I noticed, as Lisa puts it. And then, at last, I started to see and to learn.

Something else happened, too. I began to inhabit the world around me during those walks. Inhabitation — it’s a powerful word. Maybe it’s pretentious. Maybe it’s corny? And yet that’s how it feels.

It never stops, this seeing, learning, wondering, inhabiting. That’s another kind of miracle.

The pictures in this post are photographs I’ve taken over the years on my walks through the Scrub. Here you can see it in its many moods, its many seasons, its many tempers. I don’t know if my photographs can convey the wonder I felt as I took them, or the remembered sense of discovery I feel now when I return to them, but I hope that they convey, at least, the deep joy that my wandering has brought me.

That’s the thing, you see — noticing is both a humble and a joyful process. It’s a privilege to inhabit this kind of joy.

Because

Other people’s words about … settlement

It is no wonder that most Adelaide inhabitants have little idea of what the pre-European vegetation of the Adelaide Plains looked like, because over vast swathes of suburbia, unless one knows exactly where to look, it is basically all gone and has been for over a hundred years. Add to this the interest in recent decades in planting Australian natives that may have been sourced from regions over a thousand kilometres away and there is little wonder that confusion exists about the identity of the truly indigenous plants of the Adelaide Plains.

from ‘The Native Plants of Adelaide
by Phil Bagust and Lynda Tout-Smith

We bought our house south of Adelaide almost twenty years ago, back when house prices were still affordable along the coast, if you went far enough away from the city. I didn’t know the area of Aldinga very well before we moved there: when I was a child, it was still a little coastal country town within driving distance of Adelaide. City people spent their summer holidays there each year. That was all I knew about it.

Guinea flower (hibbertia)
Guinea flower (hibbertia)
Smooth riceflower (pimelea glauca)
Smooth riceflower (pimelea glauca)

Aldinga isn’t a small country town anymore: since we’ve moved there, it’s been swallowed up in the growing suburban sprawl — those vast swathes of suburbia — along the coast north and south of Adelaide. It’s no longer a holiday town, either. People travel farther afield these days for their holidays, mostly overseas. Many of the beach shacks have been knocked down, but some (like ours) still stand.

Pink fairy, a spider orchid (caladenia latifolia)
Pink fairy, a spider orchid (caladenia latifolia)
Old man's beard (clematis microphylla)
Old man’s beard (clematis microphylla)
Flame heath (astraloma conostephioides)
Flame heath (astraloma conostephioides)

Aldinga Scrub is a patch of native coastal vegetation growing just inland of the beach: an environment of dense, bushy vegetation growing on low sandy dunes. I had never heard of it before we moved here. It is, in fact, the only patch of remnant (pre-European) coastal vegetation left in South Australia. It’s not pristine — there are many weeds growing in it. The climate within the Scrub itself has changed, too, due to the diversion of natural stormwater by farmers onto encroaching farmland.

And yet, wandering through — listening to the songs of the shrike-thrushes and whistlers and magpies and fantails; stumbling across a lone echidna trundling through the undergrowth; standing back to allow a kangaroo with a joey in her pouch bound past — I feel as though I get a hint of what the place was like before European settlement. Hence the photographs on today’s post, which I took in mid-September, as spring took hold of the Scrub.

Paper-flower (thomasia petalocalyx)
Paper-flower (thomasia petalocalyx)
Variable groundsel (senecio lotus)
Variable groundsel (senecio lotus)

I’ve never named the Scrub explicitly on my blog before, though I’ve posted many photographs of it. I feel fiercely protective of the place — because of its unique status; because I discovered it late in life; because I know that the more that we encroach upon it, the more it disappears. Because, because, because.

Meanwhile, I am still teaching myself the names of the native birds and animals and plants and insects who inhabit the Scrub. I wander about, learning and wondering. I may never really know its original nature, but I plan to go on teaching myself about it until the day I die.